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Though I understand that www.braincrave.com and The Atlasphere are technically competitors, at a higher level of abstraction, their goals overlap. This is a brilliant video that discusses some of the ideas behind Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Joshua Zader, the founder of The Atlasphere, comments that 'Rand's ethical vision was really one where we want to create a win-win world for everybody, and that there shouldn't be conflicts of interest among rational people if you're using an ethical system where everybody is treated as an end in himself.'

I've transcribed a portion of the interview below.

'I definitely think her novels provide the best introduction to her ideas. They're easier, so they're more accessible to many people, they're best sellers over the last 40 to 50 years, so obviously they've appealed to many people. But also, they set her ideas in the context of the real world and, if you read The Fountainhead first, you're really treated to a beautiful introduction to her thinking. It's the way she came to her ideas. She was originally very interested in the notion of how do people maintain their independence and integrity in the face of a world that demands compromise and The Fountainhead is about that. And you read that book and you really, you get a personal introduction to her ideas. The you can read Atlas Shrugged and she shows how that same idea plays out in aesthetics and romantic love and politics and ethics and, by the time you get to Galt's speech, you've pretty much got it all laid out in front of you. So I think there are a few places where she really distills it down to a crystal clear formulation quite the way she did in Galt's speech. On the one hand, it's a intellectual climax of the novel, it's the place where the plot tension that's been going on through the whole novel is finally explained. You understand why the producers have gone on strike. On the other hand, it's the opportunity for Rand to lay out her philosophy as a system for the first time in the world. The part of the speech that bowled me over the most and continued to impress me for years as I was re-reading it was her derivation of ought from is. And I continue to think that's one of the most valuable things that Rand did as a philosopher is helping people understand in a clear, lucid way how you can derive principles of what you ought to do in your life from factual information about the nature of human life. So she was identifying, you know, requirements of biological life and how those lead to the need of a system of ethics and guidelines for leading the good life. And that connection which she outlined, I think first in Galt's speech, is, it's brilliant. You know I've heard philosophers first complain that it's not rigorous or they disagree with it in one way or another but I don't know anybody else who has provided for everybody a lucid, easy-to-understand explanation of why ethics is ultimately rooted in reality and in our nature as biological beings.

To what extent do people believe that thinking for yourself is really important?

'As a novelist, she was doing something very radical in trying to portray an ideal human being. There are very few novelists now or, I think you have to go back pretty far in history to find novelists who were comfortable with the idea that their role as an artist was to uphold an ideal. Rand was not only trying to create that ideal but she had enough of a good vision of what that ideal consisted of that often you can tell a lot about people by how they react to it. For example, some people find it hopelessly corny that she was trying to paint a picture of the ideal person and other people find the very idea of a novel extolling selfishness to be, you know, just ridiculous beyond belief. When people ridicule Ayn Rand, I often sense that there's something at a deeper level, there's something about idealism itself that's a little uncomfortable to them. And, in that sense, her novels can be a very useful touchstone for understanding to what extent do people share my belief that human beings can be noble. To what extent do people share my belief that thinking for yourself is really important? I find when people are uncomfortable at a viceral level with Rand's characters, they can still be good people, but they're probably not people who I'm going to be able to hit it off with as easily or as deeply.

'Rand's ethical teaching that I personally found the most useful is, I think, a line from the introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness. She says the basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that every man is an end in himself and it's a good razor, ethically, if you're sizing up a situation politically or in your personal life to ask yourself the question are we creating a solution here where everybody's treated as an end in himself, where their own happiness is the most important thing for each person, or are we creating a situation where some people are expected to sacrifice to others, where some people's interests are subordinated to others. Rand's ethical vision was really one where we want to create a win-win world for everybody and that there should be conflicts of interest among rational people if you're using an ethical system where everyone's treated as an end in himself.

'When Rand was writing, selfishness was really a dirty word. You know, you almost couldn't talk about it in polite company. In the years since then, you know, we've had the hippies have grown up, the 60's culture has matured, they're now, you know, running the world, and selfishness, it's really different to talk about selfishness now. I think in our age, in contrast to Rand's age, it's a much bigger problem people who are stuck on narcissism. I think one of the dangers of Rand's philosophy at this point is that if you are disposed towards narcissism, Rand's going to give you all the justification that you need to keep doing that, maybe even become worse. So, in today's culture, I think it's important to point out that it really is about treating people as ends in themselves. You know, when you talk about selfishness, if you take that ideal to the extreme, depending on how you interpret it, you can end up with a lot of bad behavior. But if you take an ideal like treating people as ends in themselves, it's hard to go wrong with it.

'And I think if you really want to realize the potential that Rand outlined in her philosophy and her writings, I think you need to keep an open mind, learn from a lot of different places, even in unsuspecting places like Buddhism. One thing that Buddhism, at it's best, and Objectivism have in common is a great respect and emphasis on fidelity with reality. And in Objectivism, that fidelity with reality takes the form of logic and making sure that what you believe matches what's really true. So it's intellectual. And, in Buddhism, the emphasis on fidelity with reality takes the form more of emotional fidelity and learning to identify your own emotional resistance to the way things are. So the Buddhists have emphasized acceptance, meditation, sometimes a sort of strategic mental detachment so that you can maintain more objectivity about your emotions and your thought processes. Sometimes I see Buddhism as a set of practices in search of a philosophy in an analogous way that Objectivism could be seen as a philosophy in search of a set of practices for doing things like raising your level of consciousness, being more productive, having a happier life, having more harmonious relationships. So what would it look like if you combined the ideas of Objectivism with the practices of Buddhism and the kind of personality that that creates? You know what that would look like? I think it would look like Howard Roark. And I think it would look like John Galt, too. If you want to look at a face without pain or fear or guilt, look at Buddhists. Those are people who've learned, they've learned to interact with their own mind and their own emotions in ways that lead to the kind of serenity that Rand advocated in her novels."

(The original article surrounding this video can be found at http://www.reason.tv/video/show/josh-zader-on-rand. The interview was conducted by Ryan Seals.)


Original posting by bindependent on Nov 10, 2009 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=15

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We all admire beauty, but the mind ultimately must be stimulated for maximum arousal. Longevity in relationships cannot occur without a meeting of the minds. And that is what Braincrave is: a dating venue where minds meet. Learn about the thoughts of your potential match on deeper topics... topics that spawn your own insights around what you think, the choices you make, and the actions you take.

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